Spike squinted at his captor through his one good eye, pain spearing him back from the grim hold of unconsciousness. Isobel had removed her stylish leather coat and gloves, claiming not to want to ruin them. It left her wearing only a body-hugging black leather mini dress that clung to every shapely curve and a pair of stilettos. Her beauty was just another weapon in her deadly arsenal making her look soft and vulnerable.
The cold-hearted bitch was watching him, eyeing the landscape of her handiwork across his skin. Bruises, knots and shallow wounds covered his torso. Blurred vision prevented him from getting a clear view, but he saw the spreading smile and the glint of her fangs as she stepped closer.
“Try that again, luv,” Spike’s speech slurred through his swollen lips where a deep split formed. “Don’t think you’ve scratched that itch yet.”
High on causing him pain, forcing his screams and having another master vampire at her mercy, Isobel looked eager for the next round. Chained, beaten and bloody, there was no doubt he was right where she wanted him. Her almost heady laugh cut through the ringing in his ears.
Thought he was amusing, did she? Through the hazy fog clouding his brain, Spike recalled what she had done to him. Gritting his teeth against the urge to howl, he noted the slackened chains and lunged forward.
Even though she never flinched, her eyes widened a fraction, and her smile dimmed just enough to make Spike realize Isobel had thought he was incapable of attacking her. Inches away, he was jerked back into place, his arms stretched out above his head, scuffed boots barely touching the ground. Beavis and Butthead, her two pasty faced minions, grunted as he strained against their strength.
Instead of censuring him for trying to rip out her throat, Isobel seemed impressed. An almost dreamy look lit her gaze. Walking up to him, her high heels clicked on the concrete surface of the factory floor. “Aurelius men have such stamina,” Isobel cooed into his ear, her hand brushing over his shoulder, nails digging in just enough to let him feel it. “Don’t fight me, cousin. I can take away the pain. Cooperate. You know what I want.”
The melodic sound of her voice at times soothed and tempered him between acts of sheer malevolence. His shirt hung in tatters from his shoulders, jeans opened and clinging to his frame, torso littered with torn flesh and smeared blood. Fuck if she was not also turned on by it. Spike could smell her excitement. It kept him sane to know he had that one bit of power over the bitch.
Not that he could do much with it at the moment.
Isobel wanted something beyond the pain: the truth about Dru’s whereabouts. It had something to do with Angelus’ chit, the cheerleader. If it was just a matter of giving up the goods on that feisty little puss, Spike might consider turning tattler.
But she wanted Dru, too.
It only made sense that Peaches would keep his pet close at hand. There was only one place Dru would go during a crisis—straight home to dear old Daddy— and that meant keeping mum about the mansion.
Funny thing was that Isobel never directly asked about him. He half expected her to blabber on about Angelus this or Angel that. Instead, she asked him for details about Cordelia Chase as if she did not even know there was a connection. If that was the case, Spike was not about to enlighten her. The less talking he did, the less likely he was to spit out something she could use against him.
Dulcet tones and soft touches accompanied her plea, “Tell me, Spike. Tell me where to find them.” Isobel nipped at his earlobe. Her hand slipped down to the open fly of his pants, her fingernails combing through the dark wiry hair at his groin and getting a reaction.
“Not bloody likely.” A groan escaped. Head tilted back, a shudder of hatred and lust wracked through him. Fuck if he was not getting a bit turned on by it, too.
A heavy headbutt knocked her back. Isobel stumbled away from him, the shock and pain momentarily frozen on her face giving him a thrill. She lifted a hand to her forehead, gaping at him for having the audacity to fight back. Or maybe it was just the fact that he had not fallen for her seduction scheme.
As expected, the bitch made him pay, another blonde bint who had it in for him. Had a good right hook, this one did. His left eye was already swollen shut and felt like he had been walloped with a tire iron. Not as sharp a jab as the Slayer’s, mind you. Isobel had her own tricks. Liked to play with her nails, claw bloody trails across his skin and let her tongue follow the drops of blood. He had lost a lot. Felt dizzy with it to the point that he had almost forgotten this was torture.
There was something familiar about Isobel and her sire. He could not pinpoint it. He would remember if they had met before. Snotty bastards and their sadistic mates were hard to forget. He considered that she might just remind him of Darla. The notion turned his stomach. As sickening as the idea of staking one’s sire was to a vampire, Spike was not exactly teary-eyed over the fact that Darla was dust.
Her ivory skin was splattered here and there with red. Lifting a coated finger, Isobel dripped the blood across her tongue as he watched, and then closed her lips around it. She savored it rolling her wet tongue around until every drop was gone. “Mmm, you do taste divine, but playtime is over now.”
The hairs raised on the back of his neck as Spike saw her reach for a nail gun that had been left behind on one of the factory shelves. “My aim might be a little off,” she pointed it directly at his chest and then slowly tracked downward inch by inch, “but some targets are more challenging than others.”
His good eye popped open wide. “Oy!” Spike dodged the first shot by swinging his body out of the way. One hit his thigh, another wild shot lodged in his boot next to his big toe. The minions who held his chains pulled hard to get him back into place as he dodged nails. They were laughing hard which unintentionally released some tension on the chains making it easier for him to move.
Vamped out, he roared in pain as a third nail speared a little too close to its intended target. Isobel’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction. “Got you.” She walked close once his chains were pulled taut again. “Tell me about the pain, Spike. Does it hurt?”
She grabbed the end of the long nail protruding from his jeans and pressed it at an angle deeper into his flesh. Snarling, “It tickles a bit,” he refused to tell her it hurt like the devil. Yes, it bloody well hurt. He would like to take a rail spike to her tender bits and see what she thought about it.
Digging it in a little deeper, Isobel growled back in frustration. “Do you play games with your sire? There is no safety word here. No chance to stop the pain unless you tell me what I want to know.”
“No,” the guttural sound emerged from his throat barely recognizable to him. “Finish it. Not gonna tell you squat.”
Yanking out the nail, Isobel plunged it into his abdomen again before hurling it to the floor. “Do you have any idea how angry Kalesh will be if the Pure One continues to elude us? Kalesh is unforgiving. Even the most loyal do not escape her wrath. My sire fears nothing except the power she holds over our future.”
Who the bloody hell was Kalesh? Spike tried to focus through the searing pain. “Bitch, you won’t have a future. Gonna see to that myself,” he muttered almost to himself. A slap across his face caught him off guard when his thoughts wandered, imagining encounters in the dark, and Isobel’s dust blowing away on the wind.
“Pay attention,” demanded Isobel harshly. “There is but one way out of this, Spike. I need answers. We do not require your sire’s capture for our plan to succeed, only the human. Why do you protect Cordelia Chase, and what is she to you?”
Not a flipping thing. He caught himself from saying it managing to twist his words to, “None o’ your business.”
That husky laugh returned as she twirled a finger around the edge of the lower wound where the denim turned dark with blood. Her nails scraped along the fabric covering his thigh, her fingers brushing lightly over his open fly on a down stroke.
A voice came out of the shadows overhead, “Am I interrupting?” a figure standing on a crossbeam that held up the roof. Spike recognized it instantly as Angel’s.
Isobel whirled away to search for the intruder while snapping an order to her minions to stand their ground. They held his chains in place, actually tightening their hold a notch. Spike felt his arms and spine stretch painfully, but he felt invigorated. Though unexpected, Angel’s arrival could mean only one thing: his rescue.
“Lost your bloody advantage now, luv!” Spike grinned for an instant before flinching at the sharp twinge from his split lip.
The swarthy vampire to his right overheard. “There is but one of him, idiota. We are three.”
“Basta,” Isobel gestured for silence. “Do not be foolish, Tomas. Can you not hear the confidence in his voice? Be ready.” Her beautiful face twisted form into that of the true vampire: prominent brow ridges, golden eyes, sharp angles and deadly fangs.
Spike lost track of Angel in the rafters. Moving fast, he sprung agilely from the steel beams down to the floor. The others were just as disoriented and called out warnings each time they thought they saw a shadow. Finally, he stepped into the light, a tall, dark imposing figure draped head to toe in black.
While he was sizing up the opposition, Isobel stared at the newcomer, anger visibly melting as recognition struck. An anxious quiver sounded, “A-Angelus?” mixed with anticipation as she took a step toward him. “Unbelievable, it’s really you. Everyone thought you dead it has been so long since your name has been heard.”
“Only everyone who was anybody”, Spike cut in. If Angel’s instincts were not rusted solid, he would realize that Isobel was twittering like a star-struck schoolgirl over meeting Billy Idol face to face.
Angel’s gaze narrowed as it slid from Isobel to him. It looked like Captain Boring was not amused by his little attempt at levity. Hell, he was the one who was captured in order to give Drusilla time to escape, chained and beaten, nearly seduced into telling everything. If he wanted to joke about this sodding rescue attempt, he deserved it.
“You’ve got something that belongs to me.” That was not exactly how Spike would have put it, and tried not to chuckle at Angel’s attempt at playing master. But who was he to complain if it got him out of these chains and back to Drusilla’s side. “Release him now.”
With a nasty little smile, Isobel walked back to Spike’s side. She stepped under his chained arms. “Secure him,” the quiet orders were given to her lackeys. To Spike, she stepped closer, ran a hand along his chest from behind and whispered, “Ruin this for me and I will have your head.”
Isobel was off again to chat it up with Angel pretending to consider his release. Spike knew better. He hoped Angel had half a brain to figure that out.
“Angelus, I have waited too long to meet you,” she purred, her hips swayed seductively as she moved toward him. “My sire has told me many tales of your escapades. There are few who can rival your vicious deeds. I have been eager to discover more ever since I met Darla. She claims you are quite the stallion.”
Did she really think he was going to fall for that load of crap? Bollocks. Soft curves and long legs, and a sharp pair of fangs would not distract him. Or would they? Deep down, Peaches was still Angelus: ego incarnate. This new groupie was another piece of blonde fluff, one of his favorite types. Spike silently cursed the bastard. Suddenly, the odds on his rescue were not looking so good.
“You have the advantage,” Angel moved closer though clearly keeping an eye on all three of them. He must have realized that while Isobel was unknown to him, her sire was someone he had known in the past as Angelus. “Who is your sire?”
Spike noticed that she was not so quick with the introductions. Playing coy, Isobel just smiled. “One who will not be pleased if I am harmed. Angelus, please believe we had no idea you were in Sunnydale.”
For once, Soul Boy was not denying his rightful name. As long as Isobel did not sniff out the fact that Angel had something extra on board, it looked like his bluff might work.
“Would knowing have made a difference?” Angel looked like he could not give a crap one way or the other. “I’m here for Spike. Release him.”
Isobel shrugged one shoulder. “Now that you are here I need him no longer. I do not need him to tell me where to find Drusilla. If you are here, then it means she went to you. I presume there are a number of locals who know of your lair.”
Sodding hell! The chit was not stupid. She was putting the pieces together too fast for Spike’s liking. Angel was not too keen on it either if the dark look on his face meant anything. Knowing where to find Drusilla meant they could find Cordelia, too.
Before Isobel could say anything else, Angel wrapped his big hand around her throat dragging her from the ground so that her tiptoes barely touched the concrete. The menacing look on his face was enough to frighten anyone. Isobel looked like she was creaming her panties instead. Choking the bitch could not kill her, but it hurt like hell and made it hard for her to talk.
Angel obviously did not like her knowing where to find his luscious little pet.
The two goons ran up to flank them. Angel hardly twitched in response to their bared fangs. He flung Isobel through the air directly at the one on his left. She screamed in fury, probably at the indignity rather than the pain as they crashed to the floor in a heap.
With a quick extension of his arms, two stakes appeared in Angel’s hands. He whirled to attack the second vampire. Spike was actually impressed even though he had never had much reason to kill his own kind in the past. The nifty armaments almost made Old Broody Pants look cool—not that he would ever admit thinking it.
Though caught off guard, his opponent was quick to parry the first blow dodging the next with equal efficiency. He sensed they had been around for a while. These were not ordinary blokes by any means. They had captured him, after all, reasoned Spike.
Never one to sit on the sidelines, even when chained, Spike urged, “Put some muscle into it, Peaches. That’s the ponce who nearly tried it on with Dru before Blondie over there put a stop to it.”
Angel did not need instructions, but it felt too damn good to finally see Isobel and her goon squad get it where it hurt. This one was fast, but he tried to get too fancy. The bugger tried some jujitsu move that Angel was more than qualified to counter. Angel got him as he flipped through the air and sent him to the concrete flat on his poncey face.
Plunging one stake into his heart, Angel held the other one up defensively as Isobel screeched for her remaining underling to attack. Spike noticed her voice was hoarse from the squeeze put on her throat and wished he had been the one to do it. One big difference, though. Kept squeezing, he would have done.
A cloud of dust exploded around them, billions of tiny bone shards and ashen flesh. Instead of settling slowly to the ground, it billowed through the air when the other guy made a steamroll move in Angel’s direction. A blur of motion tumbled them onto the floor. It knocked him hard against a piece of heavy equipment.
Good job it was his just head getting knocked around. Angel wedged a leg between them hurling him off. Spike’s gaze followed right along watching him crash on top of the table with a heavy thunk. Its wooden legs broke and the table fell sending Dru’s favorite china cup to the concrete floor.
Cringing, he saw it shatter into a hundred pieces. First the doll, now the cup. Dru was going to be in a right rotten mood when she found out about it.
When Spike focused on the fight again, he noticed that the stakes had disappeared back into the devices bound to Angel’s forearms. Now it looked like he wanted to make a point with his fists. Angel actually let him get back to his feet only to make him pay for it. Powerful punches bloodied his face staggering him.
Efficient jabs made Angel’s moves seem practiced as if beating the other vampire to a pulp was something he did day after day. He lowered his fists purposely leaving his guard down to draw his opponent in, taunting him when his movements got clumsy.
Anger turned furious when Angel kicked his legs out from under him. All but daring him, “Want to try that again?”
Isobel circled around them, watching every move. She bent down to pick up one of the broken table legs. Instead of coming up behind Angel, she left her man to his fate—which was going to be being dusted as soon as Angel quit toying around. If Spike did not know better, Peaches was taking out a little bit of revenge against the poor sod.
“He’s magnificent, isn’t he?” Isobel’s husky voice came too close for comfort. She was back beside him. He had lost sight of her momentarily while watching the fight.
Spike tried to shrug, but his arms were pulled tight by the chains binding him. “If you like that sort of thing,” he hesitated answering. Silly bint.
Her answer was almost a purr, “Oh, I do.”
“Just a hint, Issy,” Spike glared irreverently. “If you want to keep that pretty face, I suggest you give him whatever he wants.”
Growling at him, Isobel dragged the jagged edge of the table leg across his cheek. “You?” The trail left a trickle of blood. “The Angelus of legend would leave you to rot. I know there is more to this than just saving your skin.”
Spike ignored the prickling pain and the distraction of the ongoing fight. “Gonna give you a bit of advice. Take ‘Gelus off the ruddy pedestal before it falls on you. He’s got an agenda. Whatever it is has got sod to do with me. There’s only one thing on his mind and she’s leading him around by his—,” he broke off suddenly realizing that he had said too much.
He knew it the moment the words were out of his mouth that Isobel was filling in the blanks. “Drusilla,” she offered up the suggestion even if it was off base. It made sense—if you were part of someone else’s clan, the sire acting on behalf of his childe. “She wants you back.”
“Don’t doubt it.” He was not so sure about that bit. After all, she had cheated on him with a Chaos demon, used him to get back to Sunnydale, and talked about him leaving her like it was some foregone conclusion.
“Angelus would never let his childe rule his actions.” Isobel turned to watch the fight for a moment before concluding, “He’s not just here for you. It’s the girl he wants.”
As she linked Angel to his pretty little pet, Spike’s eyebrows quirked up in surprise at the confidence in her voice. “The girl Dru brought home?” he tried to look bored. “Can’t really say. Had a right hard-on for the Slayer last time I was in town. Sexy little blonde, like you.”
“Nice try,” Isobel purred stroking his injured cheek. Bitch was too close for comfort, both physically and in getting to the truth. The fact that she knew it, too, was clear when she gave a little shudder and smiled. “There’s no need to lie to me, Spike. I’ll just ask him myself when he’s finished with Tomas.”
She was a cold-hearted little bint, he thought, but noticed her eyes stray toward her companion. A hint of regret flashed across her face vanishing just as quickly. “You do that.” Spike had a feeling if Isobel even mentioned Cordelia’s name she was going to get an answer she was not expecting. “Remember what I said, luv. Give the man what he wants. If it’s the girl, you can find another one. Plenty o’ them around Sunnyhell.”
“Not like this one.” Isobel smirked when he did not bother to deny it. “Cordelia Chase is one of five who possess the power to secure our future. You cannot imagine what it will be like. Perhaps Angelus does not know what he wants,” she added cryptically making him wonder what she had up her sleeve.
Spike did not know much about Angel’s chit except that she was a lot easier on his eyes than his ears. “What power?”
There was a moment of hesitation before Isobel admitted that she did not know all of the details. “The girl is to be sacrificed. That is all that matters. I prefer to dwell on the outcome.”
That was motive enough for Angel to dust her if she did not give up the goods. He knew that Angel was not here just to rescue him. Maybe that was his secondary objective, but the first would be to get any bit of information out of Isobel that he could.
“Which is what?”
Isobel turned away from the fight again. After a short pause to look him over, she tucked the broken table leg under her arm to free up her hands. Spike was about to call foul when she headed straight for his fly, but she only zipped it up and then fastened the two remaining buttons on his shirt. That was not going to hide anything. If she wasn’t so close to telling him what the hell was going on, Spike would’ve vamped out and bit her nose off.
It was just a matter of time before Angel had her back in his clutches. He only hoped the soul would not get in the way of ripping this bitch’s heart out.
“My sire and all my kinsmen will receive the power we’ve been promised. That should interest him enough to join us,” Isobel sounded smug about it. “Had I known Angelus was in Sunnydale I would have convinced my sire to approach him.”
It sounded like something that Angelus would have jumped at—except for the fact that he did not play well with others. A shot at real power might be enough to get him to toe the line for a while. But Angel was not exactly interested in the same things as he used to be. “You sayin’ that ‘Gelus gets it, too?”
Lifting the splintered wooden shard to dig into his skin again, Isobel grabbed onto his ear. Whispering into it, “Yes, cousin, and so would you.”
Stunned at her revelation, Spike was confused. He figured she was lying. This was just some trick to get him to talk. Isobel was hinting at a connection between them, Angelus and her sire. He did not know enough about the history of the Aurelius Clan to call her on it. The here and now had always been more his thing.
If he thought she was telling the truth, he might actually consider listening. This had to be her way of making a play to get out of here. Angel was about to cut down her last line of defense. Things were about to get bad for Blondie if she planned to get between Angel and his curvaceous kitten. That was not the safest place to be.
Spike warned her, “He won’t give up the girl.” There was no use denying it now. If he did not say something, Angel was going to in a matter of minutes. Might as well use it to see where the information led. “If he came here for her, then it means she’s on the loose. If it was for me, then he’s already got her.”
“There must be a way to convince him,” Isobel husked conspiratorially. “If Angelus joins us, so must you. I promise you will gain all that you desire.”
First it was torture. The seduction routine followed. Now she was playing on good old-fashioned greed. “Not a bleedin’ chance.” Isobel’s sire had something up his sleeve that involved Dru. And she wouldn’t be so quick to think the former King of Wank over there would hand over his new bed warmer if she knew about the soul.
He decided to put an end to their little game. “Just so there’s no misunderstanding,” Spike added smugly, “if he doesn’t crush your scrawny neck, I will.”
Isobel looked stunned for an instant. She recovered well, but was unable to hide her angry pout. Taking a step back she pointed her weapon directly at his chest. “You’re in no position to make threats.” Then glancing over her shoulder at the ongoing fight shrugged, “Angelus is rather busy just now. Want to bet he won’t get here before I dust you?”
The crunch of bone sounded as Angel put a sudden stop to the fight. He had signaled Spike to keep the conversation going once Isobel started to talk. Just how long did the chit think it took to take down one of her goons, anyway? It probably took more effort not to kill him. Guess he had heard enough, or at least decided that this was still a rescue mission after all.
“’Bout bloody time,” Spike muttered.
Distracted by the moaning vampire on the ground, Isobel whirled around to see what had happened. “Tomas,” she cringed as he writhed in agony barely able to hold back his screams of pain.
A broken back would not kill the vampire, but it would stop him from running out of here. He would serve as a spare witness if Isobel would not give up the goods on her sire’s plans. Spike had to admit he would not have bothered to keep him around.
Angel met Isobel’s gaze. He made no grand threats. “Come here.”
To Spike’s surprise, she actually obeyed the command without question and dropped the makeshift stake as a show of trust. “I invite you to join us, Angelus. You will gain more than you ever dreamed.”
“That includes you?”
She took the question seriously stepping even closer. “Yes. Nicolau indulges. I play with whomever I choose.”
Meaning she shagged them until they both lost consciousness, Spike interpreted.
If anything, the mention of her sire’s name made Angel’s already stony appearance grow colder. He grasped onto her hand and wrist with a swift move closing around them to twist it behind her. “I’m not interested in your games or your deals.”
“You refuse me?” Isobel gasped indignantly and started to make a serious effort to struggle against his hold, now realizing this was not actually foreplay, but a real threat.
Spike could not believe the chit was still standing. “Just kill the bloody bitch.”
Captain Forehead apparently had his own agenda. He did not even look Spike’s way.
“Isobel, isn’t it? I have a message for, Nico.” Angel already new her name. Knew her sire, too, he realized, well enough to call him by his nick.
Her teeth rattled when he gave her a hard shake. A little rough handling was just what was needed to get her attention. She was a vampire, after all, not quite as breakable as human women. He knew what buttons to press to get her to listen.
Isobel hissed, “Yes, Angelus.”
“The name is Angel,” he growled it. “Listen carefully. Here’s what you’re going to say…”